Creating what they term psyche-fonk metal, French band Toumaï is one of those encounters which send tingles down the spine as it teases and ignites the imagination. Unleashing a majestic psyche twisting bedlam in the tasty shape of debut album Sapiens Demens, the quintet from the south of France bewitch and tantalise with each psychotic note and every maniacal rhythm. Their album is a tempest of ideas and cracked invention presenting an adventure like no other and a pleasure which only turns lustful over time.
What little we can tell you about Toumaï is that the band formed in 2006 and consists of vocalist Antoine Flaven Hude, guitarist Julien Mahoudeau, bassist Christophe Applanat, drummer Clement Mahoudeau, and Célia on keys and trumpet. That is about it, apart from the fact that their first album is irresistible and uncontrollably insatiable with imagination, mischief, and inventive hunger. The five-piece bring influences from the likes of Psykup, Infectious Groove, Primus, Gojira, Mr. Bungle, Primus Band, Rage Against The Machine, Tool, and Red Hot Chili Peppers into their fusion of funk, rock, and metal, but it is only one shade of the whole picture; the release a musical canvas which only the ears can truly represent not our simple words, though we will give it a go of course.
The opening track is Little Psycho, a title so apt for song and album. From an initial percussive tease the drums lay down a riveting frame around which the bass roams and leans on the senses with a menacing glee whilst the keys dance with energy and mischievousness over the ears as vocals explore their narrative with quality and equally enterprising rascality. The swagger of the song is a delicious bait alone within its ever changing gait and presence of the song whilst bursts of aggression make the perfect suitor to the elegant beauty which coats the keys and their melodic caresses. There is a similarity to fellow Frenchmen Mucho Tapioca at times as the song climbs and soars through its persistently shifting glory but also of System Of A Down in its latter moments and Faith No More across its stirring flanks.
The impressive start is immediately left in the wake of next up Madness in Mind, the best track on the album with ease. Vocal croons wrap the ears right away as the guitar and keys stroke attention to its fullest height, before the song settles into a ska kissed, reggae bred stroll within metallic walls which get their turn to intimidatingly press upon and please the senses. With its funk hips swaying leading to the raucous chorus, the track is like King Prawn meets Korn though when it slips into a beauteous wash of ever engaging keys and vocal harmonies punctuated by another striking bass line and rhythmic probing, the band takes the listener down a more alternative rock avenue. This is only halfway in though and the track only accelerates to greater potency and persuasion once it lifts its knees to romp into an infection soaked waltz of enterprise fusing the loco folk/pop of Mano Negra with the contagious unhinged temptation of Kontrust before thrusting it all through a Skindred bred causticity. It is crazy and completely enthralling, not forgetting simply sensational.
The following Petit Punk en Ut#m is no slouch in tripping the switch to the strongest satisfaction either, its more noise seeded rock and disorientating psyche funk tempting another feast of unpredictability and hunger breeding invention. Scavenging the senses for the weakest spot, the song flares over the opportunity with punk belligerence and metal sculpted antagonism as it works towards its climax, not before having seduced with dazzles of psychotic indie melody seeded teasing. Another highlight, the song is backed in strength by the less crazed Anachron, a track which admittedly does not quite reach those earlier set heights but still magnetises attention and appetite with its funk stepping vibrancy and contagious melodic smile.
Both Bankster and Wiki Puppies keep the listener on their toes physically and mentally, the first and extensive expanse of craft and imagination which lays down a pulsating quickstep of reggae spawned pop. This is then wrung through voracious cantankerous crescendos at certain moments which burst from the song’s wonderfully exhausting enticement which builds towards a dramatically powerful and aurally traumatic brilliant closing declaration. Its successor pounces and leaps over the imagination as if its notes and ideas are crossing hot coals. It is a tempestuous mix of jazz, rock, psyche, and avant-garde devilry placed in a maelstrom which seamlessly forges an addiction spawning triumph from it all, rhythmically, melodically, and vocally.
The two parts of the title track almost come as a shock, the first especially subdued and restrained in its cinematic atmosphere and noir clad shadows and spoken vocals in comparison to the rest of the album, though the second part is soon climbing up the walls with scorching grooves and twisting melodic flames igniting the air around the again excellent vocal presentation. A relatively, and we say that with tongue slightly in cheek, straight forward heavy rock infused slice of metal with those continually entrancing keys of Celia enticing the emotions, the track is a deeply pleasing venture setting up the appetite for the closing mastery of Prey of Birds.
The final song enjoyably plagues the ears with a kaleidoscope of sounds and challenging invention shuffled to an inch of its cohesive life, but as on all tracks it casts a proposition which is fully coherent and wholly. Sapiens Demens is a thrilling testament to endeavour and outside the box thinking but crafted with a knowledge nestling within Toumaï of how far to go and where to link everything for an innovative and breath-taking whirlpool of sound. Another to add to the must have list.
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